GREENSBORO - North Carolina A&T came up against one of the best pitchers in the nation on Tuesday in University of South Carolina Upstate's Hannah Alexander.
Alexander is ranked 22nd in the nation in ERA, but the Aggies were still able to get base runners against her. Despite the moderate success, the Aggies were never able to capitalize. Plus, A&T defensive mistakes were an impediment as Upstate defeated the Aggies 8-0 in the first game of a softball doubleheader played at the Lady Aggies Softball Complex.
The Spartans (26-4) also beat A&T 8-0 in the second game. Juanita Jernigan had two hits for the Aggies (7-18) in Game 1. Alexander pitched six innings for the Spartans; did not walk a batter and struck out seven. She came into the game with an ERA of 0.97.
The Aggies biggest threat against Alexander came in the fifth inning with Upstate leading 7-0. With two outs, Zabresha Blakeney singled to center field which was bolstered by Tiffany Macklin reaching on an error by Spartans third baseman Kaitlyn Jaeger to put runners at first and second. But Hope Fletcher popped up the first pitch Alexander tossed to her to end the threat.
Upstate, who has the fourth best batting average in the country, brought the game closer to an end in the sixth inning. The Spartans needed an 8-run lead after five to earn the win. Dana Landers gave the Spartans an eight-run lead with a single that scored Shellie Robison who opened the inning with a double to center field.
The Aggies tried to extend the game in the sixth as Jernigan hit a two-out double to right field. Alexander struck out Raven Smith to end the game. Dobison (7-11) took the loss for A&T. Dobison fell behind early as Hayley Reinfeld hit two-run RBI double to give the Spartans a 4-0 lead in the third. Maddison Keiffer would later score Janna Lewis, who reached base on an error, to give Upstate a 5-0 advantage.
Robinson led the Spartans by going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI. Cheyenne Griffin was 3-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
Upstate's pitching was just as strong in the second game. Casee Clauser (2-0) pitched a one-hitter, gave up one walk and struck out five over four innings. A&T starter Alexandria McAfee (0-7) gave up eight runs, but only four of those were earned.
She started out strong by holding the Spartans scoreless over the first two innings. McAfee surrendered a triple and a bunt single for the Spartans' first run. Robinson then hit a solo home run off McAfee to give Upstate a 2-0 lead. But it was the fourth that made the game lopsided. Two A&T errors made it possible for the Spartans to score six runs in the inning.
Robinson added to her impressive day by going 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored in Game 2.
The Aggies will have a much more important game against a South Carolina school this weekend. The Aggies welcome S.C. State to the Lady Aggies Softball Complex for the first conference three-game series of the season. The two teams will face one another in a 1 p.m., doubleheader on Saturday. The series concludes Sunday at noon.